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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 17th December 2012

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

Severn Barrage Consultation

Purpose of the Report

1.         The purpose of this report is to advise Cabinet of the Commons Select Committee's recent public consultation on the potential for a privately financed Severn Barrage.

Recommendations

1.         That the contents of the report be noted.

2.         That Cabinet endorse the concerns set out in paragraphs 7 and 8 of this report as the Council's formal response to the Commons Select Committee consultation.

3.         That in responding, the Select Committee recognises the need to accurately refer to the project for a Severn Barrage as having potential landfall at Lavernock Point, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

4.         That the report be referred to Planning Committee and Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee for information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To advise Cabinet of the Commons Select Committee Severn Barrage consultation.

2.         To obtain Cabinet's endorsement of the response submitted to the Commons Select Committee in respect of the consultation on the Severn Barrage.

3.         In order to ensure accuracy and clarity when referring to the project.

4.         To advise Planning Committee and the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee of the recent public consultation.

Background

2.         A previous report of the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration on the 22nd April 2009 advised Cabinet of the Phase One Consultation into the feasibility of tidal power within the Severn Estuary undertaken by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in partnership with the Welsh Government (WG) and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). That report set out the chronology that had led to the Phase One consultation and provided a synopsis of the range of proposals that were being considered by the UK Government to provide renewable energy from the Severn Estuary. The consultation focussed on a recommended short list of schemes that were being proposed for more detailed analysis and the issues that the feasibility study was considering and how those issues were being approached. The report set out the concerns of the Vale of Glamorgan Council with regard to the work of the feasibility study to date, and was forwarded to the Department of Energy and Climate Change as this Council's response to the Phase One consultation.

3.         The government published its response to the consultation on the 15th July 2009 alongside its Renewable Energy Strategy and the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, two complementary documents that set out how the government propose to deliver 15% of the UK's energy from renewable sources by 2020 and a reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 to meet the first three UK carbon budgets.

4.         In October 2010, the Government published the findings of the feasibility study and consultation into Severn tidal power and concluded that of all the schemes investigated, despite its high capital cost of approximately £34 billion; the Cardiff to Weston barrage scheme offered the best value for money.  It should be noted that the terminology relating to Cardiff-Weston, is Government terminology, and should more accurately refer to Lavernock.  The Government however also concluded that there was not a strategic case for public investment of this scale in tidal energy at that time but did not preclude a privately financed initiative coming forward. 

5.         Recent reports suggest that private financing for a Severn Barrage may now be available but only if it is supported by the proposed Contracts for Difference Mechanism i.e. long-term instruments that provide stable and predictable incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon energy generation schemes.

6.         In response to the privately financed proposals, the UK Government has established a Commons Select Committee to investigate the proposed Cardiff to Weston Barrage. The Committee will examine the potential for the project to deliver low-carbon electricity to the UK and the likely cost to consumers as well as the potential impacts on wildlife and local employment. The Committee has invited written evidence from interested parties on the 30th October 2012 and requires responses by 30th November 2012 addressing some or all of the following points:

·                What contribution could the Cardiff to Weston Barrage make to UK energy security and climate change objectives?

·                What risks and opportunities could it pose with regard to flooding in the Severn estuary, and how might any risks be mitigated?

·                What risks and opportunities could it pose to wildlife and habitat in the Severn estuary, and how might any risks be mitigated?

·                What lessons can be learned from the successful development of La Rance tidal barrage in France and other tidal power projects?

·                What risks and opportunities could it pose to local employment and community, and how might any risks be mitigated? In particular, what are the consequences for current ports, fishing and aggregate extraction industries in the estuary?

·                Would the project require support under the proposed new Contracts for Difference mechanism?  If so, approximately what level of strike price would be required to make the project economically viable?

·                How does the company plan to engage and consult the community in the development of the project?

·                How does the company plan to engage and consult the community in the development of the project?

·                Are the proposals in breach of EU legislation, and if so how will this be addressed?

·                Are any other proposals for tidal power projects in the Severn estuary currently under consideration?

·                What could be the wider international implications of the scheme for UK engineering and UK low-carbon industry?

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         In response to the previous consultation exercise, the Council was satisfied that the work undertaken to assess and potentially develop tidal power in the Severn Estuary was thorough and dealt with all of the relevant material considerations and the principle of maximising the opportunity through the promotion of a Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage was generally supported. However there were a number of factors that were felt to require more detailed consideration and assessment which were more specific to the Vale of Glamorgan. It should be noted that a copy of this report has already been submitted to the Commons Select Committee to meet the deadline of 30th November 2012, with a statement that any additional comments that Cabinet may wish to make will be forwarded separately after the closing date. The specific areas of concern are detailed  below:

·                Should the barrage ultimately prove to be the preferred tidal power option, there would be considerable impact upon land at Lavernock Point both during construction and following completion. The construction phase itself lasting up to seven years and involving thousands of workers. Additional concerns are expressed over the need to transport and accommodate materials and the impact upon the local highway network is of concern. The Council would wish to work closely with DECC and the WG to ensure that environmental impact in this area is minimised.

·                The economic benefits of the scheme should not be understated given the employment benefits both during construction and beyond during operation. The scheme also has the potential to generate a significant level of tourism and educational interest.  All these issues also have the potential to impact significantly on the local highway network.

·                While the generation of renewable power by a tidal barrage is commendable and would be generally welcomed, linking such as facility with the National Grid and the transmission of this power could have significant impacts upon the landscape of the Vale of Glamorgan. The Council welcomes the intention to investigate the potential impact of a tidal power scheme on the energy market, electricity network/grid and in particular the local environment. In this regard, consideration should also be given to whether there is potential to include other options as part of the barrage scheme. By way of example, the potential for lagoons, reefs and even off-shore wind generation as part of the scheme should be considered.

·                The development of the barrage could have significant implications for the port of Barry. In this regard the port of Barry would be the closest port on the seaward side of the barrage and there needs to be a careful assessment of the implications for the port not only during the construction phases of any barrage, but also longer term. In terms of wider impacts, especially with regard to ports upstream from the barrage, the issue of displacement of shipping traffic would require detailed consideration as would the need for the provision of infrastructure to facilitate access to ports such as Cardiff and Bristol. Such infrastructure to include locks and harbouring facilities. The potential impact on employment within existing ports also requires detailed consideration as would the potential benefits to ports such as Barry on the seaward side of the barrage.  One potential benefit would be to link the tourism and visitor impacts of the barrage and the potential links to Barry and the use of the dock are for leisure and tourist related activity, including the potential for marina development.

·                The Vale of Glamorgan currently accrues significant tourism benefits from its attractive and extensive coastline. In the event that the Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage is the favoured tidal power option, while accepting that this scheme could have tourism benefits in its own right, concerns are expressed as to the impact that such a scheme would have on the wider tourism resource within the Vale of Glamorgan.

·                The site of the larger barrage proposal is currently indicated to make landfall on the Welsh side at Lavernock Point in the Vale of Glamorgan and should be referred to in the future as either the Lavernock to Weston barrage or by reference to the closest major town, the Penarth or Barry to Weston barrage not Cardiff as is currently the case.  Such terminology is misleading and the project should be renamed and referred to as the Lavernock Point to Weston Barrage in all official correspondence.

·                The ecological impacts of the larger Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage are noted in the reports that have been circulated and it is acknowledged that considerable work will be required on the impacts on habitats, ecology and biodiversity.

·                In the same way, the barrage will be a major piece of infrastructure and the visual impact of a project of this scale will be significant and extend over a wide area. Issues of detailed design will therefore be critical given the potential impact on this part of the rural Vale of Glamorgan and indeed the wider region.

·                With increasing sea levels increasing forecast, the role of a barrage in contributing to flood prevention requires detailed assessment.

·                A key issue relates to the question of access to the site, not solely during construction but also for servicing, operations and dealing with visitors. In this regard there is a clear need to improve access arrangements to the site not only in the immediate locality but also from the M4 motorway and other parts of the strategic highway network. Such impacts must be delivered as an integral part of such a scheme.

·                In progressing the second phase of the Severn Tidal Power feasibility study this Council considers it essential that full and detailed contact is maintained with those local authorities that might be affected by the development of a Severn Tidal power scheme such as the Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage.

8.         While the delivery mechanism for the provision of a Severn Barrage may have changed, the resultant impacts of a Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage proposal remain the same and it is considered that in the absence of more detailed and scheme specific information that the comments above should be submitted in response to the current Commons Select Committee consultation.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

9.         There are no direct resource implications to the Council at this stage of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study other than the involvement in the development of the project as one of many consultees.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

10.      The Development of a Cardiff (Lavernock/Penarth) to Weston barrage across the River Severn would produce approximately 5% of the UK energy needs and would assist in meeting the UK target set out in the Climate change Act of 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline.  The development of a barrage could however have a significant adverse impact upon the ecology and habitats of the Severn Estuary.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.      None arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.      None arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.      None arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.      At this stage in the progression of tidal power proposals within the Severn Estuary it is difficult to identify the impacts upon the various service areas of the Council.  However, given the scale of any future tidal power scheme such impacts could be considerable especially in terms of environmental impact and economic development and regeneration.

Policy Framework and Budget

15.      This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.      All ward members have been consulted on this report.  In addition, all Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan have been advised of the consultation exercise.  Comments received as follows:

Councllor Traherne

This is an excellent and well balanced report.  I would however like to reiterate the importance of the question of access to the site, not only in the immediate locality, but also from the M4 motorway and other parts of the strategic highway network.  For too long the Vale has suffered from poor strategic highway infrastructure.  If a Barrage is to be built then this vital issue must be addressed, funded and be part and parcel of the scheme.  A failure to do so will result in a significant and an adverse impact upon the quality of life for the people of the Peterston - super - Ely Ward.

 

Councillor Wilson

Many thanks I also regard that the infrastructure is one of the gains that could  be achieved by the barrage; however the risks to the bio-diversity are one of the real dangers of this development and that there needs to be a detailed environmental impact assessment before we could seriously consider the project. 

Councillor Penrose

My Ward of Sully and Lavernock would be the most effected in the Vale of Glamorgan by the proposal for “the Severn Barrage”, and whilst noting and agreeing with the comments raised in the report, I wish to ensure the additional points are also taken into consideration, and included in the recommendations :-

 

·                It is essential that public meetings meeting are organised for residents of Lavernock,Sully and Penarth as soon as possible, where the Consortium for the construction of the proposed Barrage fully explain the proposed location, mode of construction, time period, and all other implications of their proposed scheme.

·                That a period of at least 6 months be afforded for public consultation with local residents before any decision is reached.

·                That an enquiry survey be carried out to ascertain the possible effect the barrage would have on residential property values.

·                That an enquiry survey be carried out to analyse the possible effect the barrage would have on risk of flooding to the area, due to any possible variation in tide heights.

·                Quantification on what impact the construction of the barrage would have to the immediate area of Lavernock, Sully and Penarth.

·                Infrastructure and road schemes that would be made should the proposed scheme be approved.

·                The aesthetic effect the scheme would have on the immediate area and coastline.

 

I consider it essential that full information on the scheme be afforded to local residents to enable them to make judgements and form an opinion as to whether they are ultimately in favour or against the scheme.

Councillor Bertin

I note the contents of this report.

Having viewed this document, I endorse the response given during the consultation exercise.

I would ask that we are kindly kept informed of all progress on this important matter.

Councillor Probert

I would like to say that I'm against the massive, continuous barrage proposed by the private developers, as I think the impact on the environment would be catastrophic. In assessing any potential positive climate change benefits, we have to include the adverse impact on the environment of destroying the extensive mud flats which are of great importance to large numbers of migrating and resident birds. We need to find out how losing this rich ecosystem and all the plants and animals in it might release more greenhouse gases and negate any "green" benefits.

I would be in favour of a series of separate generators being placed in the estuary. We need to be familiar with the technical options before we can make a decision.

There is a comment in the report which alleges that the barrage would help to mitigate against flooding - I am not convinced of this. Since the Cardiff Bay barrage has been built, we in Peterston super Ely have seen regular and frequent flooding of the river ( a few times a year), something that did not happen   in the past, even in years of heavy rainfall, when the river would flood once with the rainfall, and not repeatedly as it does now.  This is despite flood prevention schemes up river. We must examine every assertion in the report.

Barry Town Council

 

"Further to your email of 30 November a meeting of the Town Council's Review Working Party was held on 6 December to consider the Severn Barrage Consultation report.

Members opposed the construction of a Severn Barrage and requested that the following comments be relayed:

- The high capital cost, although covered by private funding, will most likely result in increased prices to end consumers.

- Wales will suffer in the long run as most of the power generated will be transported to England.

- There is a high environmental impact with security concerns around the coastline.

- A Tidal Lagoon, like the one proposed for Swansea, would be better for Wales as the power generated will be used locally."

 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

17.      Economy and Environment

Background Papers

Severn Estuary Tidal Power Feasibility Study

 

Contact Officer

John Marks: Tel 01446 704629

 

Officers Consulted

All Heads of Service

Operational Manager Legal - Committee Reports

Senior Accountant

Operational Manager Development and Building Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services